Bucks blaze same old trail in loss to Portland

Bucks blaze same old trail in loss to Portland

TOM ENLUND

The Journal staff

It’s all beginning to sound like a broken record for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Play a team that is without one or two of its star players. Start slowly and get behind early. Stage a furious fourth-quarter rally, often with reserves in the game. Fall short. Lose the game.

The Bucks demonstrated once again on Tuesday that they’ve got the routine down, losing to the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers, 106-100, at the Bradley Center. The Bucks never led in the second half. But in the fourth quarter, sometimes with as many as four reserves on the floor, the Bucks closed an 11- point deficit to one late in the game only to say it in unison fall short.

“It’s frustrating,” said Bucks backup center Marty Conlon, who played the entire fourth quarter. “We’re always coming back. We’re always right there, but it’s not enough.”

One more missed opportunity for the Bucks?

“The effort we put in was very good,” coach Mike Dunleavy said. “A lot of guys tried to contribute for us. But to play just good enough to get beat is disappointing. A lot of guys stepped up for them.”

Most notable was Milwaukee native Terry Porter, who scorched the Bucks for 36 points on 12-for-18 shooting from the field and 10-for-11 accuracy at the free-throw line. Porter had it on automatic pilot in the first half, making 8 of 10 shots and all five of his free throws for 23 points, the most anyone has scored on the Bucks in a half this season. Backup guard Aaron McKie, who averages 2 points a game, finished with 16.

“That was Terry’s best game and far and away Aaron’s best game,” Portland coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “We didn’t come to play last night {in a loss to Chicago}. Tonight, we did.”

Also, Portland’s seemingly endless array of power forwards punished the Bucks on the offensive glass. All that was enough to make up for the absence, due to injuries, of guard Rod Strickland (bruised shoulder) and forward Clifford Robinson (sprained ankle), the team’s two leading scorers.

“When I heard Rod Strickland wasn’t playing, I got excited,” Conlon said. “Then I thought of all the {injured} teams we’ve lost to. I thought it would be better off if he was there.”

Milwaukee was led by guard Eric Murdock, who was out of the starting lineup because Dunleavy was looking for some more firepower off the bench. Murdock provided that and then some, scoring a season-high 29 points.

Murdock pumped in 10 of 14 shots. He tied a Bucks single-game record for three-pointers by making 6 of 8. Murdock made his first eight shots and first two free throws before finally missing from the lane late in the third quarter.

Vin Baker put in another long and productive night’s work and finished with a strong line: 27 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in 39 minutes.

“It’s a shame. If we were winning more, {Baker} would be getting all-pro consideration,” said Conlon, who pitched in 10 points and six rebounds.

Baker stated the obvious after Milwaukee’s sixth loss in seven games. “Point blank, we’ve got to get some wins,” he said.

Porter rumor resurfaces: Porter smiled, dropped his eyes and shook his head when asked about “the rumor.”

Because apparently, that’s all it was. A rumor, one that he had heard many times before. Porter will be an unrestricted free agent after this season and the on-and- off rumor has been that Porter would finish his career with the Bucks. Porter said it was something that originated last summer when his name was being thrown about in trade talk.

“It was something that was taken out of proportion,” said Porter, formerly of South Division High School and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. “I was asked if I’d be interested in going to Milwaukee. I said, `If that happened, fine, I’d be interested in playing here.’ “

Porter still has family and friends in Milwaukee. He still visits during the summer and he still works out with University of Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Dick Bennett, who was Porter’s college coach, in Green Bay prior to training camp.

But that’s the extent of it. As a free agent, Porter said that he would look into playing for the Bucks, along with other teams.

“Who wouldn’t want to come back to their home town?” said Porter. “But I’ll be looking at everybody.”

Porter went into Tuesday’s game averaging 12.9 points, 4.2 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 27.7 minutes.

“I was more aggressive tonight looking for my shot,” he said. “During one stretch there, when I made four or five in a row, my shot felt real good like I was in that zone.”

Porter, who thought he had an ankle problem taken care of last season only to have it crop up again in training camp, said that he thought his foot was close to 100%.

A foul call: The Bucks fell victim to an unusual, and costly, foul call at the end of the first quarter.

With time almost expired, Portland’s McKie tried to fire a desperation shot from three- quarters court. There was minimal contact with Milwaukee’s Todd Day, but referee Terry Durham called a foul against Day and awarded McKie three free throws. Referees will seldom call a foul in that situation. McKie made all three free throws.

“That loomed big, it was huge,” Dunleavy said. “He was 70 feet away. Of the 100 times I’ve seen that, 99 have not been called.”

Airing it out: As good as Murdock played offensively, he did misfire badly on a three-point try with just under a minute left and Portland leading, 103-99. Murdock shot from deep in the corner but failed to draw iron.

“He felt like he making his shots all night,” Dunleavy said. “Maybe he wanted to see how hot he was.”

Copyright 1995

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